Before 9/11, if the US president had announced that the government was going to "play God, reaching down from our high-tech heaven to kill whoever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want"—including US citizens, without a trial—the news would have been met with uproar. But that is indeed what we are doing today with our drones, "and nobody cares," writes Gary Kamiya in an extensive piece on Salon. As long as the government kills for the good of national security, the majority of Americans apparently have no problem with it, Kamiya writes. But how did this come about? He traces the shift in attitude back to the war in Afghanistan—which he calls "justified" in the wake of 9/11. Once the US established a precedent of killing Taliban members wherever they were found in Afghanistan or Pakistan, "it was a small step to killing bad guys in Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya."
You won't find many critics of this dirty war, which also includes special forces operations like the one that took out Osama bin Laden, because it's "cheap, out of sight, and involve[s] low casualties." But though it's tactically effective, "it is strategically disastrous." We have descended to the terrorists' level, and "in a fight against terrorism, which ultimately is a fight for hearts and minds, this is a losing proposition." This endless war could lead to "blowback" in any number of ways—destabilizing the governments in the places we're fighting, or simply causing more people in those places to turn to terrorism as revenge. And then there's the assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. "If it’s OK to kill Awlaki today, why shouldn’t it be OK to kill some foreign scientist we deem dangerous to our national security tomorrow? By embracing the law of the jungle, we have opened the door to Hell." Kamiya's full essay is worth a read. (Read more War on Terror stories.)